Millions of Americans recently received copies of the documentary "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" in their newspapers and mailboxes.
The documentary looks at the continuing threat posed by radical jihadists, including some graphic images of them in action. It also features interviews with people who pay attention to the radicals' words and deeds, including Investigative Project on Terrorism Executive Director Steven Emerson.
That has prompted an organized backlash written up in stories and editorials by newspapers throughout the country. Most of those clips quote representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) without ever challenging what – if anything - in the DVD is inaccurate, and without hitting CAIR with some tough questions about its unseemly history.
Many of the articles offer the theory that the mass distribution is being done to benefit Republican John McCain's presidential campaign, and cite complaints that it is an unbalanced report that newspapers should have rejected, because the idea of a documentary with a point of view is just unheard of.
So it's good to see two columns push back in recent days. Both note the documentary's emphasis on the fact that the vast majority of Muslims do not share the warped interpretation of Islam used by terrorists to justify their violence. And both columns question the validity of the criticism against Obsession.
Columbus Dispatch editorial page editor Glenn Sheller notes that CAIR consistently lobbies to strip any reference to religion from terrorist acts committed by Muslims:
"For many years, CAIR has waged a campaign to intimidate and silence anyone who raises alarms about the dangers of Islamic extremism. CAIR's rationale is that discussions of Islamic extremism lead to animosity not just toward those who twist Islam into a justification for terrorism but toward all who practice Islam.
CAIR's concern is understandable, but its response is unreasonable. The group acts properly when it hammers home the point that only a small number of Muslims support religiously motivated violence and that targeting law-abiding Muslims is wrong. Where CAIR errs is in labeling anyone who discusses Islamic terrorism a bigot and hatemonger, an Islamophobe, to use CAIR's favorite slur."
At the Rocky Mountain News, columnist Dave Kopel cites a number of ways in which CAIR's credibility has been strained by its own actions and the actions of some of its past employees. Kopel wonders whether newspapers would treat complaints by the Ku Klux Klan about a documentary on racism with similar weight.
"But when the story is nothing more than CAIR announcing it is offended about something," Kopel concludes, "the announcement does not deserve an inch of the increasingly scarce news space in the papers."